'What do you care for an Irish song?' she returned.
'Much!' said Steerforth. 'Much more than for any other. Here is Daisy, too, loves music from his soul. Sing us an Irish song, Rosa! and let me sit and listen as I used to do.'
He did not touch her, or the chair from which she had risen, but sat himself near the harp. She stood beside it for some little while, in a curious way, going through the motion of playing it with her right hand, but not sounding it. At length she sat down, and drew it to her with one sudden action, and played and sang.
I don't know what it was, in her touch or voice, that made that song the most unearthly I have ever heard in my life, or can imagine. There was something fearful in the reality of it. It was as if it had never been written, or set to music, but sprung out of passion within her; which found imperfect utterance in the low sounds of her voice, and crouched again when all was still. I was dumb when she leaned beside the harp again, playing it, but not sounding it, with her right hand.
A minute more, and this had roused me from my trance: — Steerforth had left his seat, and gone to her, and had put his arm laughingly about her, and had said, 'Come, Rosa, for the future we will love each other very much!' And she had struck him, and had thrown him off with the fury of a wild cat, and had burst out of the room.
'What is the matter with Rosa?' said Mrs. Steerforth, coming in.
'She has been an angel, mother,' returned Steerforth, 'for a little while; and has run into the opposite extreme, since, by way of compensation.'
'You should be careful not to irritate her, James. Her temper has been soured, remember, and ought not to be tried.'
Rosa did not come back; and no other mention was made of her, until I went with Steerforth into his room to say Good night. Then he laughed about her, and asked me if I had ever seen such a fierce little piece of incomprehensibility.
I expressed as much of my astonishment as was then capable of expression, and asked if he could guess what it was that she had taken so much amiss, so suddenly.
'Oh, Heaven knows,' said Steerforth. 'Anything you like — or nothing! I told you she took everything, herself included, to a grindstone, and sharpened it. She is an edge-tool, and requires great care in dealing with. She is always dangerous. Good night!'
'Good night!' said I, 'my dear Steerforth! I shall be gone before you wake in the morning. Good night!'
He was unwilling to let me go; and stood, holding me out, with a hand on each of my shoulders, as he had done in my own room.
'Daisy,' he said, with a smile — 'for though that's not the name your godfathers and godmothers gave you, it's the name I like best to call you by — and I wish, I wish, I wish, you could give it to me!'
'Why so I can, if I choose,' said I.
'Daisy, if anything should ever separate us, you must think of me at my best, old boy. Come! Let us make that bargain. Think of me at my best, if circumstances should ever part us!'
'You have no best to me, Steerforth,' said I, 'and no worst. You are always equally loved, and cherished in my heart.'
So much compunction for having ever wronged him, even by a shapeless thought, did I feel within me, that the confession of having done so was rising to my lips. But for the reluctance I had to betray the confidence of Agnes, but for my uncertainty how to approach the subject with no risk of doing so, it would have reached them before he said, 'God bless you, Daisy, and good night!' In my doubt, it did NOT reach them; and we shook hands, and we parted.
I was up with the dull dawn, and, having dressed as quietly as I could, looked into his room. He was fast asleep; lying, easily, with his head upon his arm, as I had often seen him lie at school.
The time came in its season, and that was very soon, when I almost wondered that nothing troubled his repose, as I looked at him. But he slept — let me think of him so again — as I had often seen him sleep at school; and thus, in this silent hour, I left him. — Never more, oh God forgive you, Steerforth! to touch that passive hand in love and friendship. Never, never more!